FBI Says HBCU Threat Investigation Is of the 'Highest Priority'

Source says agency has identified six 'tech savvy' juveniles as persons of interest
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2022 5:45 PM CST
Feds Seek 'Tech Savvy' Juveniles Behind HBCU Bomb Threats
A graduation-themed mural is seen on the Howard University campus in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The FBI says its Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating bomb threats to historically Black colleges and universities as hate crimes—and the matter is of the highest priority. Almost 20 institutions across the country received threats Monday and Tuesday, causing some to lock down their campus. A law enforcement source tells NBC that the FBI has identified six "tech savvy" juveniles as persons of interest. The source said the suspects were using "sophisticated methods" to disguise the source of the threats, which appear to have a racist motivation.

Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young says a caller Monday described an elaborate plot involving seven bombs placed around the perimeter of Bethune-Cookman University, the AP reports. The chief says that the call lasted around 20 minutes and that the caller also said a gunman would open fire around noon at the historically Black university. Young said the caller claimed to be a member of the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division. The FBI says no explosives have been found at any of the colleges and universities that received threats this week and early last month. "This investigation is of the highest priority for the Bureau and involves more than 20 FBI field offices across the country,” the agency said in a statement Wednesday.

"These threats are being investigated as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes," the FBI said. At Coppin State University in Baltimore, where classes were shifted online after a threat Tuesday and students already on campus were told to shelter in place, professor Sabrina Taylor tells CNN she was saddened by the development and immediately reached out to students. Taylor, the university's undergraduate program director, says she wanted to make sure students felt safe. She says she reminded them that "they are on their path to greatness, and they cannot let individuals who their intention is to cause destruction, chaos and fear and doubt, stop them from walking in their purpose." (More bomb threat stories.)

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